Folks who are used to Gardiner Day happening the weekend after Labor Day are going to have to wait a couple of extra weeks this year. For 2012, says town supervisor Carl Zatz, “It was shifted to the 22nd so as not to have any conflict with Plattekill Day.” But Zatz is hoping that the change of date to the Autumnal Equinox will bring better luck with the weather than in years past. “Gardiner Day was famous for being rainy. Now that we’re holding it later in the year, maybe it’ll help.”
In fact, it was on account of the memorably wild end-of-summer weather that Gardiner Day 2011 didn’t happen at all. “Last year it was canceled because of Tropical Storm Lee. It was a beautiful day, but the ground was so muddy that we couldn’t hold it,” Zatz recalls regretfully.
With a busy schedule of events sandwiched in between 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at George Majestic Memorial Park, Gardiner Day “celebrates Gardiner and the area by providing affordable fun and entertainment,” says the supervisor, who is just one of many Gardinerites who have been involved in organizing the popular annual event on a volunteer basis. Not only is Gardiner Day a showcase for local farms, businesses and craftspeople, but it also offers a very full day’s worth of fun for kids and grownups alike.
The official start of the day is a Welcoming Ceremony at 12 noon, with an as-yet-unidentified “local celebrity singing the National Anthem,” according to Zatz. Taking advantage of the proximity of Skydive the Ranch, an intrepid jumper will parachute into the midst of the event carrying an American flag.
How do you follow a thrilling moment like that? With live music all day long from the Alexandra Jornov Quartet, for one thing, and a performance right after the opening ceremony by one of the mid-Hudson’s premier kids’ music bands, the Fuzzy Lollipops. The Got Rhythm dance troupe will perform twice, and New Paltz Karate will contribute two martial arts demonstrations. Other live entertainment will include a magic show by illusionist Ryan Dutcher, K-9 demonstrations by the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department and at 3 p.m., a visit by live raptors and other fascinating critters in Rusty Johnson’s Wild Animal Show.
Zatz is especially enthused about Majestic View Farms’ Peruvian Horse show, scheduled for 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., which has been a hit at previous Gardiner Days. The Peruvian Paso is a breed descended from horses brought to South America by the conquistadores — specifically from Jennets, a type of Palfrey, which were the horses favored by aristocratic ladies in medieval times for their gentle, even gait, endurance and calm temperament.
Peruvian horses are known for being naturally inclined, with minimal training, to a particular gait called the paso llano: a four-beat, lateral pattern of walking that never breaks into the up-and-down bouncing movement of a trot. So the rider never has to post, and can cover a long distance in a short time without either horse or rider becoming fatigued. “If we were living in the 18th century and riding one of these horses, the idea was that we would be able to have in our hands a glass of champagne without spilling a drop,” explains Zatz.
Asked about whether he will participate in another popular Gardiner Day draw, the Dunk Booth, the supervisor, who is often a lightning rod for public criticism at Town Board meetings, plays it cagey. “We don’t do that anymore due to apathy,” he declares, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “Just dunking elected officials doesn’t satisfy people anymore.” A full list of dunkable Gardiner luminaries was not yet available at presstime, but local residents of all political persuasions are likely to find some favored target in the course of the afternoon.
Also on the entertainment menu will be games of skill and chance, caricature drawings by Dale Gladstone, hayrides and pony rides. Besides the obligatory Jumpy Castle for kids, the Children’s Tent will include an arts-and-crafts table, a petting zoo, face-painting and a table for getting photo ID cards. A Country Living and Farmers’ Market Tent will spotlight rural artisans, locally grown food and agriculture, and likely become the focus of much excitement during the Fruit Pie Bake-Off Judging from 1:30 to 2 p.m. More such baked delights will be consumed during the Pie-Eating Contest that will cap off the afternoon from 4 to 4:30 p.m.
Do you sling a mean piecrust? Do friends and family rave about your baking expertise? It’s not too late to enter the Bake-Off; entry forms can be downloaded at www.townofgardiner.org/Gardiner%20Day%20Fruit%20Pie%20Bakeoff%20flyer%20and%20entry%20form.pdf. And the Gardiner Day Committee is still looking for volunteers and vendors for the day itself; call 255-9675, ext. 103 for additional information. Or just turn up on Sept. 22 and head for one of the Gardiner Day “Get Involved” tables, where you can find out about volunteer opportunities with a variety of community organizations, committees and campaigns to make the Town Gardiner an even-better place than it already is.